This collection contains oral histories pertaining to life and events in Big Stone County, Minnesota. The oral histories range greatly in topic and time period.
The digitization of these oral histories was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.
Errol Anderson and Alberta Anderson
Errol Anderson was born on his father's farm in Otrey Township on August 6, 1905. His father, Andrew, emigrated from Sweden in 1869 and homesteaded on June 4, 1884. Errol Anderson was the youngest of 8 children. In 1930, he graduated from the University of Minnesota Agricultural School and from 1935-1943 served as county agent in Ottertail County. After that time, he moved back to his father's farm and farmed the land. He is married with one son.
In this interview, Errol Anderson discusses farming in Big Stone County, primarily from World War I to the time of the interview. A particular emphasis was placed on the 1920s and Depression years. He discusses the Non-Partisan League, the Farm Holiday Movement, as well as the Farm Bureau and Farm Union. He discusses the effect of World War II on the county agent system with a view of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. Finally he discusses the farm co-operatives in the area, the Rural Electrification Program, and droughts.
Loren W. Clark
In this interview, Loren W. Clark talks about life during World War II. Mr. Clark was born in Big Stone City, South Dakota in 1915. In 1954, he moved to Ortonville, MN. There was a P.O.W. camp in Big Stone City and Mr. Clark discusses this in the majority of the interview.
In this interview, Agnes Cunningham discusses her family and personal history, her family in the early days of Big Stone County, school in Big Stone County, the effects of the Depression on teaching, differences in teaching from 1935 to 1955, World War II, and diseases and health problems, including polio.
Ora Hills was 78 years old and was a lifetime resident of Beardsley, Minnesota.
In this interview, he discusses farming, horses in farming, and some of the big storms of the past. He also talks about the custom combining work he used to do down south.
In this interview, Peter Jensen discusses Lake Traverse boat traffic, grain elevators, commerce on Lake Traverse, and experiences of a boat captain.
Wilmar A. Johnson
Wilmar A. Johnson's parents came from Sweden and he spent most of his life farming. He grew up near Graceville, Minnesota.
In this interview, he discusses the prices of equipment and crops, including during the Depression. He also talks about changes in farming. Finally, he talks about what he does now that he is retired, including jigsaw puzzles and cribbage.
Wilmer Johnson was born on June 19, 1907 in Moonshine Township, Big Stone County. He farmed in that area until 1952 at which time he moved to Morris to work with Eames Distributing until his retirement.
In this interview, Wilmer Johnson started by reviewing his life in near decade by decade terms dealing mainly with 1920-1950. He mostly discusses farming and youth. He then spoke of his family's background from Sweden and the new life in western Minnesota near Graceville. Finally, he gave some views on the changing of life for farmers and further recollections of past experiences.
Mrs. Frank Jost
Mrs. Frank Jost was 83 years old and was born in Clinton, Iowa. She was a city girl growing up.
In this interview, she talks about seeing the Wright Brothers first flight and the first hot air balloons. She discusses the county fairs, breakfast cereal, getting drinking water in the city, and her work in a candy factory. She discusses dating during that time. When she was married, she and her husband moved to a farm in Ortonville and she recollects some of the bad times getting used to being a new country girl. They then moved to a farm in Stevens County and then to the city.
In this interview, Jim Kenny discusses his recollections of his experiences as a stagecoach driver.
William P. Larkin
In this interview, William Larkin discusses life in Graceville, MN during World War II. Mr. Larkin ran a trucking business at the time. Mr. Larking was born in September of 1898.
Victor Larson and Oscar Scholquist
In this interview, Victor Larson discusses the history of his family's settlement in the area, farming, and the Elim Lutheran Church in Clinton, Minnesota.
In this interview, Oscar Scholquist discusses early automobiles and some of his reminiscences of the area.
In this interview, Alvah Matthews discusses her personal history, family history, and remembrances of early Big Stone County.
Agnes Nelson's parents were born in Sweden and emigrated to the United States in March 1882. They settled in Atwater Minnesota (Kandiyohi County) for six years before moving to Big Stone County in 1888 where they farmed. She was among nine children; one died in infancy. Following her education in a rural elementary school and high school in Ortonville, Agnes Nelson taught in the rural schools. In 1934, she ran for superintendent of the rural school system in Big Stone County and won. This career occupied much of her life until 1958 when she resigned. She did some teaching with special needs children early in the 1960s.
Since much of her life was involved with rural education in Big Stone County, this became the central focus of the interview. A rather complete outline of her career as a teacher, and later, her accomplishments as a superintendent are provided. Agnes Nelson delved into her own growing years in a rural school, her parents' philosophy of education and the experience of alternating the Swedish language and English between home life and school. Much of Agnes' philosophy on education is reflected in the interview; both in terms of how she taught and a critique of elementary and secondary education at the time of the interview.
Wesley Olson is 33 years old and was born and lived in Clinton all of his life. His occupations are farming and being a substitute high school teacher with an emphasis on speech and political science. He farmed most of his life, before going to the University of Minnesota Morris to get his teaching degree.
In this interview, Wesley discusses farming, government grain storage, and problems in farming past and present.
John O'Neil was 90 years old and a lifetime resident of Beardsley. HIs parents came from Ireland and homesteaded in 1878 the farm John O'Neil still lived on.
In this interview, John discusses homesteading in Minnesota. He also discusses changes in farming and the fact that his family held on to their farm for 100 years.
Joseph Petrick and Hazelle Petrick
Joseph Petrick was born in Ortonville in 1901. He enlisted in the army in 1917, but did not go overseas at that time. Later, he joined the National Guard and stayed with them until the 1950s. Athletics were an important part of his early life and he was involved with championship football and basketball teams in high school. He later coached a women's basketball team during the 1920s. From 1927-1969 he served as a rural postman. Joseph and Hazelle have raised 2 children.
In this interview, Joseph Petrick discusses growing up in Ortonville, his high school experiences, Hamline University, and his marriage. He enjoyed talking about athletics in his early life, experiences at a variety of jobs, including as rural postman in Big Stone County, and his years in the National Guard, particularly during World War II. He also briefly discusses Ortonville during World War I, including enlistment and anti-German sentiments.
August Schmidt was 83 years old and was born in Illinois in 1893. His family moved to Minnesota when he was 7 years old in hopes of making a better life.
In this interview, he discusses life on the farm and changes in farming. He also talks about the shoe shop he ran for 10 years in Clinton, Minnesota and getting electricity on his farm. He talked about county fairs and one year when he brought bees to the county fair. Finally, he talked about playing the fiddle.
Mary Schumaker was born in 1888 and was a teacher and principal in Ortonville, Minnesota.
In this interview, Mary Schumaker discusses her family history, teaching, social and intellectual activities, the chautauquas in Ortonville, the G.A.R., Ortonville and the railroad, World War I and German citizen repression, storms, the Depression, and Lawrence Welk.
In this interview, Boyde Sigloh talks about his life during World War II. Mr. Sigloh was born in North Dakota in 1911 but moved with his family to Ortonville, MN. During World War II he was a Captain in the Minnesota State Guard.
Rose Taffe was 80 years old and was born in Nebraska. Her family moved to Minnesota to get away from the drought. She lived in Barry at the time of the interview. She worked in a bank for three years.
In this interview, she talks about working in the bank in Barry and describes what main street used to be like in Barry. She talks about what housekeeping was like before electricity, especially concerning washing clothes, ironing, butchering, and gardening. She discusses the school her children went to and her introduction to radios.
George Weick was 86 years old and lived in Graceville, Minnesota at the time of the interview. He was born in western Nebraska and moved to Minnesota when he was 21 years old. His family homesteaded in Nebraska.
In this interview, he talks about his family homesteading, World War I, and his own farm in Minnesota. He discusses raising angus cattle, the price of land and the changes in farming.
Cleda Wernsing was born in Illinois and was 83 years old. Her father was a farmer and her family moved to Minnesota because of cheaper land.
In this interview, Cleda discusses the changes Chokio and Johnson have undergone over the years. She discusses what they did for a social life. She also talks about some of the changes in home appliances over the years.